Remote migration of retired unsupported BEMS Controllers to current supported hardware using a pre-built panel backplane.

John Arnold
By John Arnold
30 November 2021

Automation Specialist

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The project was to migrate a couple of retired and unsupported Siemens Apogee Modular Building Controllers with Point Termination Modules to the current Siemens Apogee PXC Modular controllers with TXIO modules for a major Pharmaceutical company in Europe as part of an ongoing BEMS migration strategy for the client.

The system was installed circa 2007 and has provided consistent and trouble-free 24/7/365 operation since, but due to the retirement and discontinued technical support of the existing installed controllers, a migration strategy was put in place to eradicate any potential system downtime and take to advantage of newer technology and enhancements for the future.

Old Controller

The Challenge

The BEMS panels had to be migrated within the site annual shutdown timeframe of one week, physically removed and replaced with new hardware, local physical point I/O re-wired and the migrated panel database software installed, tested and documented, all without any engineer ever setting foot on the site as pandemic restrictions were still in place for travel, hotels and testing, making a site presence impractical.

New Controller
New Controller

The Solution

Our solution was to pre-fabricate a new pre-wired panel backplane off-site with the new controller and I/O modules, carry out the database software migration, pre-load the new migrated database into the controller and after bench testing backup the database into the panel’s internal flash memory. Interconnecting wiring terminals were fitted on the backplane that matched the position and idents of the existing cables to ensure the replacement installation was as easy as wiring by numbers. A laptop was made available on the site with a secure remote connection that we could use to install our tools and connect to the new controller remotely once it had been physically installed. A local site technician was made available to carry out the physical removal of the old controller and replacement with the new pre-fabricated backplane.

The Approach


A copy of the existing site database was obtained and the panel databases were migrated to the new hardware using the Fast Forward Migration Tool. This allows the existing controller database to be kept intact for the control strategy, trend database, time clocks etc. but reassigns all the existing IO to the new modules. This saves considerable time and cost by not having to re-write any software and protects the client’s proven control strategy, initial investment and reduces any re-commissioning to a minimum. This tool also provides a detailed report of the changes for documentation of the migration. The new pre-fabricated backplane was built by our experienced panel manufactures and the interconnecting terminals were provided for the new pre-wired IO terminations.


Once the plant associated with the controller had been shut down and made safe, the existing controller was disconnected from the BEMS network and powered down. The local site technician disconnected all existing IO cables and the controller and all existing IO modules were removed. The new pre-fabricated backplane was installed and the existing IO cabling was connected to the interconnecting terminals. This was made very simple as care was taken at the design stage so the terminal numbers matched cable numbers, wiring by numbers. Once the new panel was installed and powered up, our engineers connected to the site laptop with a secure remote connection to carry out the required testing and commissioning from our offices in the UK. Communication between our engineers and the client was via a scheduled Microsoft Teams meeting during the works. Once commissioning was completed, the panel was then re-connected to the BEMS network and the migrated database was uploaded to the BEMS server, where the new panel was checked to the existing graphics. The process was repeated for the second panel with the site time around 2 hours downtime per panel.


  • Travel costs and time, accommodation costs can all be passed onto the client as a significant saving.
  • Significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the project from air travel, car travel,